Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Professional Code of Ethics for Engineering Educators

Few scholars have stated that engineering education should be considered a profession. A profession is characterized by a code of ethics that the members of that profession accept and follow. To this end, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) recently came up with a set of ethical codes for the members of the Engineering Education profession. These codes of ethics address the responsibilities that engineering educators have toward their students, improving their professional competence, ensuring honesty and integrity in their work, and social justice.

First of all, there is an acknowledgement of the fact that engineering educators are also members of their own technical disciplines and conduct work in their own disciplines. For those who do work in their own disciplines, they are expected to follow the code of ethics of their own discipline including holding “paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.” In addition to the ethical cannons from one’s engineering discipline, engineering educators are expected to follow the ethical cannons outlined by the ASEE.
There are a total of fourteen ethical cannons outlined by the ASEE. The first three of them define the responsibilities that engineering educators have toward their students. These responsibilities include ensuring graduates have an understanding of their professional and ethical responsibility, encouraging students to work for human welfare, and encouraging students to understand the societal and environmental impact of their work.

Cannons 4 and 5 address professional competence and improving competence. Cannon 4 suggests that engineering educators should take responsibility only in the area of their competence and cannon 5 suggests that they should take active steps to maintain and improve their expertise.

Cannons 6-9 outline the need for honesty and impartiality in the work of engineering educators. Engineering educators are expected to respect others’ intellectual property by “by properly attributing previous works and sharing appropriate credit with co-authors, including students” and avoid any conflict of interest in their work. Also, they are expected to build their reputation on the bases of their work and professional collaborations made by them.

Cannons 10 and 11 address the issue of social justice by suggesting that engineering educators should treat all persons fairly and demonstrate respect for colleagues and students. Cannon 12 obligates engineering educators to maintain the confidentiality of their students and colleagues. Cannon 13 addresses the issue of fair assessment of students and colleagues and cannon 14 asks engineering educators to support other colleagues in following the code of ethics.

Recently, there has been another code of ethics drafted by some scholars [1] in the field. I believe this will create a dialogue among engineering educators to reconsider the code of ethics suggested by the ASEE. As the discipline evolves, the code of ethics that engineering educators follow will evolve.

[1] Alan Cheville and John Heywood presented a paper at the 2015 IEEE Frontiers in Education conference. In the paper, they discussed a draft code of ethics for engineering educators.

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